I started realizing that I need to come to terms with the physical effects of CPTSD throughout the last semester. I have to come to terms with my own disability.
And a lot of that starts by saying it out loud.
I really don’t want to.
I don’t want to admit that I am not able.
But my dudes.
I missed my last day of shop class because of pain I’ve had in my shoulder off and on for the last 4 years (after taking off the entire week before because I was so overwhelmed that everything was being triggered and I was not in a safe headspace to machine). On Tuesday I couldn’t tie my shoes without wincing let alone use a vertical mill to drill some holes in a block.
I am disabled.
My CPTSD isn’t a fun fact, it is a disability and it impacts me physically just as much as it does psychologically and mentally. That combined with my recently identified extreme likelihood of AD/HD has made getting through this last semester of school extremely difficult.
But I did it.
I made it through and I got help at school and from friends. I now have all of the accommodations and I’m seeing a psychiatrist next week to talk about how to treat learning disabilities. I’m starting Physical Therapy for my shoulder in June, because the intermittent massages I’ve been getting, while helpful, aren’t enough to get rid of Sir Knotsalot.
I’m trying hard not to overburden myself next semester and taking most classes later in the day (save Jazz, which is a morning class, but also it’s dance, so) when my brain is more able to focus.
I don’t have a point to end this on, I’m still trying to hold all of these pieces and deal with the limits of a body that’s held more stress than it deserves. It’s a feel, lemme tell you.
I meant to write a retrospective before my birthday, but 2018 has been one hell of a year already, let me tell you.
I got distracted going through my instagram account and watching the story of the last seven or so years unfold in the archives. I look so radically different now than I did when I left home, I am radically different now. And what’s really interesting is all the ways I’m still the same.
I feel the most me-ish that I’ve ever been. I’m not repressing entire swaths of my personality or identity anymore. All the juxtapositional parts of me can just be themselves, like they wanted to all along.
All of the little parts of myself that I caught glimpses of and wanted to unearth when I was stuck at home as a kid are now able to actually bloom and come into fruition. I can be good at science, and organize communities (outside of some old man’s authority), I have the wherewithal to be assertive when I want to be, I bend metal to my will (:3), my body makes sense, I’m in school, I have friends who I see in person on a regular basis. All of this seemed impossible and unattainable years ago, I wasn’t ready yet.
I look different, I sound different, I carry myself differently – I take up more space than I ever have, I have a base level of confidence, I’m happier, I feel capable. I’m taking on things I didn’t think I’d be able to.
I’m really proud of myself for getting this far, and even on my bad days, I know I’ll be able to come out on the other side better than I was before. Having learned something, if it’s just “this doesn’t work”.
I wanted to go into more details and get lengthy, but I am exhausted.
I have a full day of homework tomorrow, and organizing if I can finish all my other things. My life right now is school, organizing for housing, and organizing for a homeschool statute in California. Therapy is keeping me sane, and one day I will have the words and the energy to write all the things that are building up in my brain.
But not today.
Today I’m just happy I’m here, and surrounded by people who care deeply about me. These are the things I cling to when I get overwhelmed and life gets hard.
Oh, but the ratio: I’m 27, and it’s been 9 years since I escaped. In 2011 I found a poem that’s stuck with me and became advice I took.
She decided to start living the life she imagined. She believed she could, so she did. She replaced her fear of the unknown with curiosity. She looked around, and life was pretty amazing.
And then I became a boi.
And I looked around, and life was pretty amazing after all.
I’ve been putting off writing for some reason. I’m not entirely sure why. Some of it is probably just burnout and exhaustion from school, processing a lot of the things that happened and got stepped on over the last semester that I didn’t have time to get to. I survived my first semester though! I got all A’s and B’s even, I did well in math even though it was dicey there for a second.
I’m proud of myself. I made a bunch of metal things and I really just want to get back into shop. Classes don’t start again until the 22nd (which fees like an eternity), but then I am in school from 8a/11a – 7:30p/9:30p Mon-Thur until the end of May.
It’s going to be an intense semester. Next week I suppose I will work on finding out what kind of things would be helpful and hit up some of the campus services. I have a hearing test on Monday because hearing people talk over the machines is really hard and since starting testosterone, the quality of my hearing has decreased. My dad and papa both have hearing problems so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a genetic thing. I’ve always had trouble with phones and white noise but it’s gotten noticeably worse, so I’m hoping that I can get hearing aids, really. Because it’d be helpful to be able to hear the lectures while watching the machine demo.
I want to talk more about all of the buttons that school pushed and navigating college while dealing with C-PTSD, but I don’t have the energy for that right now. I’m still living it, I guess.
My doctor is going to see if we can get a hysterectomy done by going the endometriosis route instead of the gender dysphoria route because 1) it’s extremely likely that I do, in fact, have endo, and 2) you don’t need any letters for that which would save me a lot of leg work. Apparently not only does insurance require you have two letters from mental health professionals, they will only cover one provider (making you pay out of pocket to meet their requirements), and require that one of the two recommendation letters is from a PhD (sessions cost more than people who are not PhDs).
We agreed that it is complete bullshit, so I just have to remember the utter agony my periods were and convey that to people. I remembered yesterday that the entire reason I have a 3DS was to survive the week my periods made me unable to move, so…I should be okay there.
This year for Holiday I went to Los Angeles. LA is a complicated city. Us two Oakland Queers were the queerest people I saw, and I did go to West Hollywood where I saw one other queer at Meltdown(!!!) but other than that, it was oddly normcore. It is incredibly difficult to get around by transit if you don’t live literally downtown. I wound up walking about 20miles a day out of necessity because I didn’t bring my bike and the bus stops are far apart and a bit infrequent. There’s not much that is walk-to-able. Walking half a mile before you reach coffee is a hard ask.
I WENT TO HOGWARTS and it was everything I hoped it would be.
Actual magic happened on New Years Eve (we stood on a bridge over the LA river and were surrounded by fireworks from all over the area with no one else in sight).
I’ve started the process of getting a hysterectomy and let me tell you, has it been a rollercoaster. Apparently complete hysterectomies are somehow not part of trans surgeries. So my Doctor got me a referral to a clinic that does Gender Confirmation Surgeries, but they don’t offer 3D Printer de-embedding. They referred me to someone else for that, but not before making me fill out an extensive intake form that made me need to start hunting for an additional therapist, because apparently one therapist’s letter is not enough for making your body match you. Anyway this new person in S.F. doesn’t take my insurance like the other place did, and I asked them to recommend me to someone who would take my insurance, and they said no. So I called my doctor again, and his medical assistant is going to do some research and get back to me this week.
In the meantime, I have scheduled a consultation appointment with the new surgeon who does not take my insurance but will cost $490 for the one visit if I don’t get something lined up before then. I also need to know if I will need two letters or not, still. I’m going to assume that I will if we can get this done going the gender-dysphoria route as opposed to the probably-have-loads-of-endo route.
The upside of a hysterectomy is that (despite its apparent rare-ness as a route for trans masc types) it’s a fairly common procedure and we even developed robots to do it better with smaller holes. So the wait time would probably be less than if I were going to try and forge myself a cock (which I have thought about, but T is uh…working well with that so it’s becoming less of a thing).
I’m coming up on the end of my first semester and I am nervous. I’m on top of two classes, behind? in the self-paced math class, and…..I need to live in the machine shop because working on this mill project has taken me for ever. I was hoping to work on it or finishing the grinds on my lathe tools over the weekend but the problem with making precision tools is you need to be able to measure and angle them precisely and I couldn’t get all the things I would need.
I can’t believe I’ve actually managed to get this far – I’m almost halfway to being a certified industrial maintenance machinist. Machining is all about turning chunks of metal into things that keep infrastructure working. I’ve always been drawn to making and maintaining infrastructures, weirdly enough. I am really into the prospect of going on to join a union and work in some kind of infrastructure project, be it housing, transit, utilities….I want to be part of the invisible set of things that no one sees but everything would collapse without. One of my projects is making screw threads on a lathe. After that, if anyone ever needs screws, I will at the very least know how to make them.
I’m currently working on a vertical mill project, making a precision angle plate. This is what is stressing me out currently, because the mills have to be aligned perfectly before I can even start cutting my hunk of cold rolled steel. This is a process called tramming and it takes me an eternity.
Picture, if you will, a 5′ tall, 110lb, barely dextrous blue haired floof trying to put all of their weight into a 7′ tall, 2 ton machine that requires a step stool to reach all of the important knobs. Yeah, the mill has been beating me for a solid month now, and I have the joint and muscle pain to show for it. It’s not that I don’t know how to tram it. I understand it just fine, I just can’t maneuver myself around the mill with a wrench (or chain of wrenches) well enough to loosen the bolts some burly dude from the night before tightened too well.
People ask me why I decided to take up machining. It’s a really good question. I’ve had this question sitting in my drafts for an eternity, and the answer is, it’s complicated.
Some of it is because I want to do something that isn’t emotional support as a job, and machines tend to have less overwhelming feelings.
Some of it is because the trades were entirely off limits to me so I never got to learn how to make anything, and I want to learn how to make things – the program I’m in at Laney will teach me the most things, and I’m really excited about that.
My goal in life really is to kinda be a hack of all trades – know how to do (and teach) basically everything. Always be learning.
Another aspect of this is that unlike political science, history, writing, what-have-you, machining and everything about construction and industrial type stuff is something I have no context or frame of reference for, so all of the information I’m learning is fresh and new and exciting. I can feel new pathways form as I add all of these new skills and ways of understanding the world around me to everything else I know.
I really want to be a part of maintaining infrastructure, building housing, part of keeping cities going. I want to make really amazing art. Eventually, I want to go back and teach too.
I guess the long and short of it is, I chose the machining program because I wanted to learn something new, and do something really different.
It’s 12:30am on Thursday. My body has decided hot flashes every 10 minutes is a Fun Thing To Do, so I’m awake. I haven’t written here since the end of March. I’m currently waiting for hopefully the last edit of a hyperlapse for YIMBYtown – the housing conference & unconference in July that East Bay Forward is putting on (go sign up!)- to export. FCPX was not meant for an underspec’d macbook, just saying.
I’m terrified that suddenly I will lose the ability to write and everything of mine will just suck. Because writing for 17+ years is obviously how you lose talent, not hone it. Also, my ability to draw and do anything creative or worthwhile. Somehow making progress also gives me a boatload of imposter syndrome.
I also had the realization that as an adult, I have what we called “fiat power” in speech and debate over the things I control. Which means, even if I AM actually pulling answers out of my ass, those are the answers we have and that’s okay. I’m still coming to grips with this.
I applied to the Machinist program at Laney College for the fall, which I’m really excited about.
I’ve been spending all of my time doing activism in one form or another and practicing selfcare. I’m really stressed about making ends meet. I feel like my time is needed in activism but activism isn’t paying me enough to keep me housed and fed sustainably. I have this recurring existential crisis where I weigh my failure in a capitalist system vs the Actual Work I Am Doing. I spend more time doing work than I’m getting paid for, and it’s work I love doing, but I need to figure out how to make it sustainable. Spending more energy than I am getting in return as far as work input for the ability-to-live-without-anxiety-output is not great long term planning. In that vein, I’m hirable, supportable, and fundable. My current situation is: I have a lot of things that are breaking or important (my cell phone, my surface pro, clothes that fit) that I just can’t afford to replace and still be able to make the minimums on my bills and buy food.
My taxes are still currently stuck in the IRS, and I have no idea when I’ll get my return. I filed in February. I called the number, it was the same exact thing as the website form but with a robot voice. Anyway, things are both terrifying and exciting right now. I am learning that it’s really hard to value my time, but that I have to or I’ll starve. yay capitalism.
I meant for this to end cheerier, but I accidentally had avocado toast this week and ruined my future.
In light of everything else happening, like fascism, it seems silly that the thing plaguing my mind would be my birthday. On one hand I feel like I shouldn’t even bother celebrating something so frivolous because, fascism. On the other, I have this unshakeable feeling that we might be in nuclear fallout by the time it rolls around, and if I survive to my birthday, that will be An Achievement.
Although given the last year, making it to my birthday already feels like An Achievement. So much has happened. The floor has fallen out from under my feet too many times to count, I barely know which way is up. All I can manage to do is keep fighting and finding new ways to fight for the future that I want to exist.
Nothing feels stable. I feel like more shoes could drop at any minute and leave me homeless, bankrupt, or starving. There’s nothing in my life that is actually pointing towards this happening, it’s just that everything feels so topsy turvy right now that it’s playing on my survival level anxieties.
I re-evaluate my life and the past year around my birthday. February is basically an entire month of introspection with the hope of some kind of party with booze, cake, and people who love me at the end of it. I can celebrate the fact that my existence continued and the people I care about also care about me.
It seems silly, but it feels really important.
If we even get there.
I’ve come so far in a lot of ways since last year, so much has changed – personally and in general. This time last year I was starting ABE classes and actually learning algebra for the first time. Today I’m writing articles about how to combat fascism, talking to reporters and city council, and getting the next dose of testosterone while trying to remember that I deserve to be paid for things I do.
I’m completely me now, and it’s great. I guess that’s worth celebrating.
Remind me of this when we get to my actual birthday.
I’m worried that I’ll be killed having helped nothing.
I’m worried about my chosen family dying or disappearing.
I wake up to this anxiety and go to sleep with it.
My therapist guesses that starting T will help with my hormone induced dysphoria too (just need insurance again).
We opened up the jar of trauma that is my relationship with my body when I’m bleeding and realized I’ve never healed from that. Surprising no one, I know. But I realized that the terror that I feel as soon as fluctuations occur stem from the first time and thinking I was going to die and being unprepared while my mom called everyone in the phone book and I was hurt and scared and confused. In addition that, the voices in my head that push me to never rest stem from trying to survive my childhood and be one step ahead of my mom so she wouldn’t get set off. Jerk brain is just trying to keep me safe and help me survive the environment it’s known the longest, and logic isn’t going to convince it that it’s safe.
So we did this exercise where I found that part of me and told myself it’s okay, no one is allowed to yell at us, no one can hurt us anymore, I’ve got this. And something clicked. And I found out how much that moment hurt me, while I was bleeding and alone and I just kinda hugged the little versions of me that were coming out and terrified and have been scared this whole time.
Jerk brain has been so much quieter since Thursday.